Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Philippines - Palawan, tricycles and awesome little beaches.

Our arrival to Manila was quite interesting. First of all we had heard about some scams that had happened at the airport where supposedly security members had put ammunition into passengers' bags, so they could take bribes from tourists to stay out of jail. For that reason we were extra cautious with our bags and in general with anyone at the airport.

Well, we made it through security ok, however, Manila's airport doesn't have a trolley or a tram to connect between airport terminals, so you have to take a taxi no matter what!

We asked a security guard how to get from terminal 1 to terminal 4 and she pointed to a taxi and called it over for us. I talked to the driver to make sure he would use the meter, which in fact he agreed to use by saying - "yes, meter, meter", so we went with it.

Well during the ride he didn't turn the meter on, instead handed us a laminated "fake" sheet that had different rates. The first one showing US$25 dollars for domestic. 

I repeated several times, "turn the meter on", and they guy keep saying don't worry, don't worry... Well, we were not going to pay $25, so when we got off and got our bags out of the trunk, I started complaining about it, so a police officer came to see what was going on!! Haha  

I told him the driver was trying to charge us $25 US and I offered him a dollar instead because literally that's all we had. The driver became nervous around the police, so he threw the dollar out and sped away. We got a free ride!!

So that was our quick welcome to Manila  as we were headed to Puerto Princesa (Palawan Island) on our way to our final destination - "El Nido"

I have to say that it was quite a journey, as we arrived to Puerto Princesa, got a shared Van service ($20 dollars for both) for a 6 hour ride. The drivers really try to put as many people as they can, so it was packed but at least we got to meet some nice people from all over the world.

The scenery is pretty great. Palawan has amazing mountains and amazing sea views all over the island. Also you can easily see tons of villages on the way, so it gives you an idea on how life really is there.

They use tricycles in the Philippines for taxi services, so David and I squeezed into the passanger seat. Thankfully El Nido is a really small town, so the ride was really short and fun.

You might be wondering, why did we go all the way to this small town?
Well, El nido is known for being a secluded area, that has very cool islands with barely touched beaches. 

The whole island offer the same 4 tours for everybody. Tours A, B, C and D.

Best ones are A and C. We did C - which was a full day visiting islands...

Including hidden island, mantiloc shrine, secret beach, star beach and helicopter island. 

It was awesome!

TIP: definitely take some water shoes with you because many times the boats couldn't dock so we had to swim under caves and walk on some coral reefs.

The town in fact I s very much alive and it's becoming really touristy. It has tons of restaurants, beach bars, little hotels and boat tours. Everything packed in one small beach town for your enjoyment.

However, the tourism is increasing so rapidly that it seems they are not prepared for it.

For example, only few restaurants take credit cards, and all other places run by cash only. 

This was a big problem because there is only one ATM in the whole town, that gets refilled only once a week! We brought some money but since we didn't like to carry with tons of cash while traveling... we were out of cash half of the time we were there!! Haha

If fact they have a plan B in case you desperately need cash..

Thankfully we figured out, we made  friends with a restaurant manager, who   help us out getting some cash back.

TIP: if traveling to Palawan bring enough cash with you to before you go!

After El nido, we went back south..  after another 6 hours ride, with a "connection" in between ;)...

...We arrive to Sabang. It is a small town right next to the Puerto Princesa Underground River / National Park. 

We stayed in an awesome hotel called Daluyon Resort.The place had little cabanas, and an amazing view..

private beach, pools, fruit gardens, 

and monitor lizards!

And they also provide tours, so we got a private boat to the underground + guide to the underground river

The river is inside the mountain, basically one of the longest caves in the world. 

It houses bats and unknown species. It was said that only 10 % of the cave has been explored!

Apparently a group of Italian archeologists have already found extremely old fossils of dinosaurs! Go figure what else could be in there!

It was interesting and scary at the same time as we were on a canoe with other 6 people. 

The guide recommends to not make any noises as the bats can get easily bothered and disoriented, so they could hit anything or anyone!

Also, the only light available was the guide's lantern, so it was completely black in there at times.

Summary, it's a great place to visit while in Palawan. 

We then left to visit a completely different  island... Boracay! Once again, we had to stop in Manila to get our connection to Boracay, thankfully this time we didn't have to change terminals ;)

Honolulu - Hawaii - A bit pricy but cool place to visit!

We had a connection in Guam on our way to Hawaii. I was surprised as there was a line for US citizens and residents and another for other nationalities; well I learned that Guam is a USA territory. We in fact did immigration there which was pretty smooth compared to the mainland.

(Red dot - Guam.  Purple dot - Honolulu)

After the connection, we finally arrived to Honolulu, Hawaii. The airport looks kinda old like from the 70's, with wood walls and a carpet in some places. We took a taxi to Waikiki beach to the Hyatt place hotel that we had reserved and paid with credit card points! I know pretty sweet! 

Otherwise it would had been $350 dollars a night! Waikiki hotels are expensive! At least includes American breakfast buffet

The taxi charged $40 dollars + tip! We thought it was really expensive too! but then we realized that we had been living in Asia for the last 3 months, so everything it is just cheaper there! Welcome to the USA.

Waikiki beach is a great area to stay, as there are lot of things walking distance from there, like malls, nice restaurants, 


nice beaches next to tons of hotels and beach bars

the aquarium at Diamond Head which also features a Luau show.

And while walking on the street you can easily spot the statue of "Duke Paoa" who was a full-blooded Hawaiian Olympic champion that introduced surfing to the western world . "Father of International Surfing" - I had no idea!

It was also David's birthday while in Honolulu, so I made a reservation at Ocean House Restaurant which has the best prime rib in the whole city! He was haaaappy!

Plus this place is by the beach so it was a great place to watch the sunset!

I also surprised him with this video - check it out!

As you can tell from the video, we have been traveling around the world, and have learned to love the ocean and sea live, so I found online a great spot to snorkel about an hour away from Waikiki, so we took public bus and headed to "Hanauma Bay". 

If you are ever there, just take the bus n.22 on Kalakaua Avenue, it only cost $2.50 per ride and drops you right at the entrance of the park. The entrance was like $7 dollars and you can rent snorkel gear at the bay.

The bay was created many millions years ago as it used to be a volcano. Then the ocean started rising and it overtime flooded the crater. 

The place it's pretty amazing and because it's full of minerals from what used to be a crater, the corals grow there quickly and its full of fish and different creatures. 

Just be careful because the current is kinda strong and the coral reef is really high, so when a wave passes you could suddenly drop and hit a rock or get into some coral hole. Haha! Honestly we didn't like snorkeling there that much, maybe we were really spoiled having the opportunity to snorkel in the Maldives.

However the trip paid off as we spotted an octopus and few fish banks. There were also pretty big fishes there, like 3 feet long.

Another day, we went on a dolphin tour. "Dolphins and You (www.dolphinsandyou.comthat took us to the north west part of the island to a town called "Waianae". The cool thing about this tour is that we actually got to swim with wild dolphins! It was spectacular!

There were around 100 dolphins swimming all over the place! We jumped into the ocean to snorkel and all these amazing creatures were swimming right below us!

You could hear the noise all around! It was an incredible experience!

Also, we spotted about 5 big turtles around a big round coral rock and I was able to test my new free diving skills then. I got to dive about 10 meters deep (30 feet) and swim really close to them. Unreal.

And we got to learn a bit of Japanese as we were with a big Japanese group

There is also another place called shark encounter were you can get into a cage but unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate. Next time!

We liked Honolulu, the vibe is nice, there are tons of people from all over the world, cool places closed by for day tours

We said good bye to Honolulu and we're ready to settle in our new city, Miami!